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Age-restrictions wrongly applied to buying Shooting Times

BASC members have reported age-related authorisation problems when trying to buy Shooting Times at self-service tills in Asda. BASC contacted the supermarket chain, which said that such restrictions are not company policy. But BASC has reminded members to keep an eye on the sale and display of shooting magazines and to inform it of any misunderstandings.

BASC policy development manager Dr. Conor O’Gorman said: “Misunderstandings can quickly lead to discrimination if we stay silent when we should act. It is heartening to see a growing number of shooters speaking out when they see something amiss and BASC is delighted to be able to nip potential problems in the bud. In this case, Asda’s customer service has been excellent and it has quickly addressed our concern that there might be age restrictions on the sale of Shooting Times in its stores.”

These kinds of restrictions seem to be reducing in number, especially at WHSmith, although the company refused to confirm that restrictions on the sale of Shooting Times to under-14s has been lifted when they were approached by this magazine in November 2012.

In October 2012 we reported that WHSmith, the UK’s leading magazine retailer, was enforcing an age restriction of 14 years on the sale of shooting titles, including Shooting Times, in all its shops.

Children under the age of 14 were affected by the decision, although some readers told Shooting Times they had to prove they are over 18 before making a purchase.

Complaints from shooting enthusiasts flooded in to this magazine since the restrictions were introduced, with many pointing out the absurdity of a ban on the sale of shooting magazines to youngsters when there is no lower age limit for those wishing to hold a shotgun certificate.

Among shooters to have had their purchase of Shooting Times challenged was Shaun Cotgrove from Taunton in Somerset. He said: “I was amazed when I couldn’t buy my usual Shooting Times without having the purchase authorised and the assistant checking I was over 18. When I queried this I was informed it was because it contained pictures of guns!”

Mr H. Hughes from Winchester contacted the magazine after he discovered he needed the permission of a member of staff to buy two shooting magazines at a self service machine. He said: “I enquired with the staff and initially was told it was the law. I then queried with the manager, who told me it’s a policy distributed from HQ as the content of the magazine is “questionable”. I pointed out that whilst knives and guns are restricted, a magazine containing such items is not… unless I’m mistaken.”

Writing on Shooting Times‘ Facebook page, a number of readers expressed their shock at WHSmith’s decision and said they would refuse to buy any magazines there until the policy was changed. Carrie Forster wrote: “I went in to WHSmith to buy the Shooting Times today and I got ID’d for it too. I told the woman serving me that it was ridiculous to ID people to buy a magazine and walked out.”

BASC’s director of communications Christopher Graffius said: “It is extraordinary that in WHSmith you can buy a car magazine at any age despite the age limit of 17 for driving. You can also buy numerous military magazines which depict the killing of people yet WHSmith is concerned about children buying shooting magazines, a legal and Olympic sport.

“It is ironic that at the recent three party conferences, front bench spokesmen and Government ministers from all major parties sang the praises of shooting sports for the sense of responsibility and discipline that they encourage in the children who take them up.

“Yet WHSmith is trying to keep the magazines that encourage that approach out of children’s hands and is causing enormous offence to adult shooters who are stopped at auto-scan tills.”

Although WHSmith says that it has no plans to place restrictions on where shooting magazines are positioned in store, it appears to be working under the mistaken assumption that 14 is the lower age limit for taking part in shooting sports.

The retailer says that although its position on shooting titles has not changed in recent weeks, members of staff have been reminded of the age restrictions as part of a ‘refresher course on till procedures.’

Alastair Balmain, editor of Shooting Times, said that the impact of the retailer’s policy has been deeply offensive: “The idea that shooters, no matter what their age, are being subject to an embarrassing “restricted item” check by staff when they head for the tills is shocking, especially so when you consider that the content of magazines such as ours is specifically geared towards a family audience. I started shotgun shooting when I was 10, air rifles when I was younger. Like so many others, I enjoyed the support of my parents when I was starting to shoot. Thousands like me are outraged by the implication that our sport is worthy of such an arbitrary and ludicrous restriction.”